Luo homestead (Dala)

The Luo homestead, or the dala, as it is known in dholuo (language spoken by the Luo), was made up of a compound where the head of the “dala” and his family all lived. The arrangement of the huts within the homestead was not arbitrary. “Each was built on the basis of traditional, long-cherished customs.” The homestead is a cultural space, and metaphorically the centre of one’s life. It’s connected to religions practices, economic activity, physical security, family life (marriage, raising children, children changing where they sleep as they get older, rites of passage), and storytelling activities (specific locations, what was said during the sessions). To tell a traditional story within a Luo homestead requires an understanding, and contextual foundation of the set-up of the homestead. Otherwise the stories become arbitrary and abstract. It was believed that failure to adhere to this ‘blueprint’ would result in a long chronic illness called chira

The gate of the home faces a water body such as a lake, a river or a pond. This was to ensure that the runoff water flows away from the home and does not enter houses. The houses of younger family members (younger wives and sons) were arranged in a descending order towards the gate. The younger you were, the closer to the gate your hut was built. The homestead is a cultural space and failure to adhere to this ‘blueprint’.

In a polygamous family, “the importance of the first house (the eldest wife’s) is that it determines the position of the gate and of the houses to be built within a homestead” (Odaga). The simba sons huts) were built in relation to the gate and in order of birth of the sons to each wife. Looked at from the inside of the compound, the eldest wife’s first son’s simba was built to the right of the gate. The main house was built directly facing the gate but furthest from it in such a way that, from outside the homestead, it was the house which was directly in line with the gate.

 

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Luo traditional homestad

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